You, the thing listening to this advice, is just a small part of a greater whole, much of which you (the thing listening to this advice) are not consciously aware of. This is because you were built by your genes to be good mainly at one thing: reproducing. That's all your genes care about. They don't care about your happiness or achievements or having a fulfilled life. In fact, they don't even really "care" about reproducing, except the same way that water cares about flowing downhill.
Your negative emotions are real. The pain you feel is real. But it's not you. It's something that is being done to you. In that regard it is exactly the same as physical pain, which is also not part of you, but rather something done to you. The fact that you're depressed is no more a character flaw than the fact that it hurts when you skin your knee.
I own everything, everything that happens to me, everything that goes wrong around me, I take my share of responsibility in it. Analyze what I can do to improve it, and do it.
When I think like what you mentioned I tend to lose control of my emotions, I feel angrier, I feel sadder. When I own what happens to me, I feel peace. I know almost everything can be improved. Maybe not short term, but eventually.
Coming back to the other side, I think the core of it is that thinking that stuff is happening to me makes me feel like a victim. I don't take responsibility for anything, thus it must be the fault of some external factor. I try to rationalize and assign blame. All in all, it's a much more negative experience for me.
Some kids are naturally reckless and should be told to always look both ways when crossing the street, and to stop and think and make sure. Some kids are naturally anxious and would have always looked both ways because they knew there were cars and cars are scary, so telling them how scared they should be is going to make navigating a city like a normal person will be an exercise in fear.
If you're depressed and you have no good reason to be as depressed as you are, then the way you feel is going to be something you feel bad about and it shouldn't be. You didn't cause it or bring it on yourself. You didn't make a bad choice.
On the other hand, neither are you powerless in the course of your life, and if your natural inclination is feeling helpless rather than guilty, it's not helpful to think about it as though your feelings are just this unstoppable force rolling over you.
I think general advice just doesn't work very well. Everyone is the combination of decades of context. Some of it needs to be taken into account.
Really? Everything that happens to you? What if you were mugged?
I think you can (and should) take responsibility for what you do (or don't do), but I don't think you can (or should) take responsibility for what you feel because you don't have control over that.
You take ownership of how you respond to every situation. Things happen to you beyond your control, but you can be in control of how you handle and internalize it if you practice.
Not being able to control your feelings is false for the most part.
Giving up the sense of control over self and one's circumstances is well known to have depressive and demotivational psychological side-effects. Recognize that some things are outside your control, but something in every situation is under your control: your own mind. If you're interested in more, read up on Stoicism.
Free Will doesn't really enter into this, so we don't have to enter that rabbit hole.
The true nature of free will and its connection to determinism simply isn't relevant to whether desires are causally connected to outcomes, and so whether this belief is well founded.
Edit: the only way out of this is to be a fatalist, whereby outcomes will always happen no matter how hard you struggle against them, that they are independent of our desires. Few people subscribe to such a view though, and if you happen to, then I can only say I'm sorry.
Walking down a dark alley, alone, at night and not having a sense of situational awareness. I was nearly mugged because of that, and now have a much greater sense of situational awareness.
I know, I know, blaming the victim is bad, but sometimes clearly assessing what led you to be in a certain type of situation can help you avoid those types of situations in the future.
There is an epilogue to the story: after the incident I crawled to the phone and called 911. The police arrived a few minutes later, and a few minutes after that told me that they had caught the perpetrator. The put me in the back of a police car and drove me out to where they had a hispanic kid, maybe 15 years old, sitting on the curb in handcuffs. They asked me if I could identify him and I said no, it was dark, I couldn't see anything but a muzzle flash. So they let him go. I have no idea if I let an armed robber back out on to the street, but I've never lost a minute of sleep over that decision.
You own your actions, not your feelings.
A lot about owning a situation is allowing yourself to do what feels right, not creating a plan for every contingency and situation. Muggings happen and they're very unfortunate and bad. But owning it well isn't as much about future prevention as it is trying to make sure that you still can have control over yourself afterwards. Sometimes things happen; why did some guy key my beat up old 95 Accord and not the dozens of other cars? Probably alcohol, but the point is less about the specific reason and more what you do in response and how you are able to gain control and feel comfortable.
Where is the boundary between things inside your mind and things outside of your mind? Where does control get inserted into the process of things arising and falling away?
One way of thinking about this produces a realisation that nobody is in control, but nobody has been denied or robbed of control either. Instead, the idea of control appears to be a kind of misapplied concept.
I think this is a realistic interpretation of the evidence which does not lead to a depressive fugue, but only when it's absorbed beyond a textual description (a bit like how reading a program is different to running one, in HN-friendly terms).
This idea even comes with a catchy slogan: sometimes your brain has a mind of its own :-)
> The exterior things touch the soul in no way. They have no access to it and neither can change the mood of the soul nor move it. Rather it gives itself its mood and movement, and according to its judgements that it makes about its own dignity, it also values the exterior objects higher or lower.
-- Marcus Aurelius
In the zen view, the 'trick' is that there are no exterior things because the distinction between the exterior and interior is artificial. Processes of change may reach across that boundary just as they cross any other boundary we care to draw, so there is no absolutely self-governed component.
Assuming (perhaps wrongly, let me know if I'm overreaching) that you see your self as a stoic or happy to interpret them, what do you think the Aurelius quote above means? What is the soul which it's talking about?
We can identify patterns that remain stable for a bit, so you might say that my soul is whatever essential features or patterns remain unchanged, but on the long span I find it hard to imagine such features. After all I will be eaten by worms or incinerated sooner or later.
In general, any time you point to others and say "they did this to me" you remove your own power to change the situation. You may have to be creative, but personally I never want to give others that power.
> but I don't think you can (or should) take responsibility for what you feel because you don't have control over that.
I disagree with this. I consider the mind a muscle like any other. It can be trained and taught more productive ways of thinking .
 https://web.ics.purdue.edu/~drkelly/DFWKenyonAddress2005.pdf (please ignore that the author of this speech later shot himself in the head)
Of course you don't. But sometimes the laws of physics leave you no choice, in which case accepting that fact can save you a lot of heartache and frustration.
> I consider the mind a muscle like any other. It can be trained and taught more productive ways of thinking .
Of course it can. And I submit that one of those "more productive ways of thinking" is to understand the laws of physics and the constraints they impose on your agency, because if you don't do that you will be frustrated when reality doesn't live up to your expectations.
> please ignore that the author of this speech later shot himself in the head
And why should I ignore that? It seems like a pretty salient fact in the context of this conversation.
Different views of the world, I guess. If the laws of physics "leave me no choice" I'm personally going to still consider that my responsibility and look for ways to prevent that situation in future, if possible. Sometimes there really is nothing you could have done (e.g. fired by a scumbag boss who didn't reveal their nature until it was too late to do anything about it) but there is nearly always something you can do to respond.
>And why should I ignore that? It seems like a pretty salient fact in the context of this conversation.
I was half joking with the comment, but the non-joking part was more to say that just because this guy wasn't able to take his own advice and contain his "horrible master" doesn't mean everything he said is invalid. It's still something to strive for.
I hope nothing I said gave you the impression that I would in any way disagree with that.
> It's still something to strive for.
Of course. All I'm saying is that you should not despair if you don't always achieve it.
But I also lost someone very close to me in a totally pointless accident, like a flower pot falling on their head. There is no responsibility to accept there, just sadness. That's okay, a growing opportunity even, but still no blessing. So I don't fully subscribe to it -- it helps with people, but not completely with life.
It's nice if that works for you but for me it totally doesn't. I have once also tried to teach myself to think that way, but in the end figured out I'd just be lying to myself by trying to come up with an alternate formulation of a problem which makes it sounds less of a problem but in reality doesn't help as it does not find a solution.
For example me being depressed is just me, no way around it. Physically speaking it's probably the non-depressed version but with some altered chemical levels causing the brain areas where it originates to be more actuated than the rest. But it's still the same body, still the same mind, just an altered state. I found embracing that and reflecting on it works better than the 'it's being done to me' thought because the latter, to me, implies there's a cause to be found and to be cured. I'm an engineer, after all. Finding the cause of depression I wasted years of thinking on already, let alone curing it. It doesn't work. So better deal with it. Which is basically what Stoicism teaches us, btw.
I think you're missing a subtle but important distinction. Yes, it's you, but it's not just you. There is no "just" you. You are not a unified whole, notwithstanding that that's how you perceive yourself. That perception is an illusion. You are in fact more complicated than that. At the very least there is the conscious you and the unconscious you. There is the part of you that has agency and exercises free will (or at least has the illusion of exercising free will) and the part of you over which that first part has no control. That's the part that keeps your heart beating and your lungs breathing and rolls your over in your sleep and feels pain when you break your arm or eat ghost peppers. Depression, like other forms of pain (and pleasure BTW) originates in that second part. The part of you that has agency can't decide not to feel pain. The only thing that part of you can do is to interpret the pain differently and act on it differently.
> Finding the cause of depression I wasted years of thinking on already, let alone curing it. It doesn't work. So better deal with it. Which is basically what Stoicism teaches us, btw.
I don't see how anything I said contradicts that. Just because you find the cause of a problem doesn't mean you can fix it. In this case it's the exact opposite: it's the realization that you can't fix it that helps you deal with it because you can stop beating yourself up for not fixing it. Feeling emotional pain is not a failure on your part. It's just the way part of your brain works.
I frequently find when I try to share an idea and it's this abstract, it makes perfect sense in my head but it's clear it doesn't land at all.
I think ego destruction are still at the core of both your and this idea